|Bravo Company 1965 - 1971
Crazy Horse - 2nd Platoon
|The Battle of Crazy Horse - Recollections
By Lt. William L. McCarron
2nd Plt. Ldr.
|The following article is an account of a battle that occurred on 21-22 May 1966 in the mountains east of the Vinh
Thanh Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The valley, also known as Happy Valley, was located some 15 miles east of the
1st Cavalry Division Base Camp at An Khe. I was the platoon leader of the 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion,
8th Cavalry Regiment and this account details my Group led by Captain Roy D. Martin who were there and who,
under overwhelming odds, conducted a successful and devastating assault on a well dug-in and concealed North
Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalion. This battalion, who we later learned from captured documents, was the 8th
Battalion, 22nd NVA Regiment, 601st NVA Division and they had prepared an almost perfect ambush on a
battlefield of their choosing. They almost succeeded. Other than in the account written by Captain Martin for the
“Airborne Quarterly I do not believe the platoon and the Command Group ever received proper credit or the
recognition they justly deserved and earned. They most certainly did not do in what at the time was considered
the most definitive book on the battle, “Battles in the Monsoon” by Brigadier General S.A.L. Marshall in the chapter
titled “Private Dolby.” The book contained numerous and inaccurate errors and did not properly report the battle
as it occurred or give due credit to all those who participated. Marshall, in fact, failed to interview any of the
officers or senior NCOs who were there, a gross oversight and an injustice on his part.
My account of events leading to the battle, the battle itself, and the aftermath follow:
On 20 May 1966, almost at dusk and in a light rain, “B” Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry (ABN/AMB), 1st
Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, commanded by Captain Roy D. Martin was air lifted by Chinook helicopters (CH-47s)
into a small clearing located in the mountains east of the Vinh Thanh Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The clearing had
been designated LZ Horse and could accommodate only one CH-47 at a time. The company had been ordered to
the LZ to begin operations in search of a large NVA/VC force that had been heavily engaged with other units of
the 1st Brigade since May 16th. Specifically “B” (Bravo) Company along with “C” (Charlie) Company 1/8th were
to link up on the morning of the 21st and generally proceed along a trail and streambed to the northeast of LZ
Horse to engage and defeat an enemy force suspected of being in the area. As related by Capt. Martin, Charlie
Company commanded by Capt. William Mozey had arrived earlier that afternoon and had been committed in
support of another unit (according to after action reports “C” Company 2/12th) who was heavily engaged to the
north of LZ Horse. Charlie Company had moved overland to the northeast of the landing zone and had also come
under fire. They had beaten back an enemy attack and set up a perimeter at coordinates BR 697638 for the
night. The Battalion Commander, Lt Col. Levin Broughton and his staff on LZ Horse, briefed Martin on the
operation that was to take place the next day, and he in turn briefed his platoon leaders. Bravo Company was to
be on the right flank and Charlie Company to the left.
The Move to Contact:
On the morning of May 21st, “B” Company moved out of the LZ around 0700 following the trail and stream
leading to the northeast. It was already hot and humid even thought overcast, with mist in the valleys and light
fog at the higher elevations around the LZ. We were tense and fully expected to make contact with the enemy at
some point that day. I commanded the 2nd Platoon and we assumed point for the company. Capt. Martin and his
Command Group followed. The 1st Platoon commanded by Lt. Robert Crum from Houston, Texas followed slightly
to my right rear and was responsible for right flank security. Behind them was the 3rd Platoon commanded by Lt
Jared East from Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was charged with responsibility for rear security and was designated
the company reserve. The mortar platoon commanded by Lt. William Hughes from Cordele, Georgia would remain
on LZ Horse and provide mortar fire in support of the move, if necessary. Charlie Company was to my left flank
on higher ground above the streambed, but to the best of my knowledge no one from Bravo Company ever made
visual contact with them as we began moving.
The area along the stream was moderately covered in vegetation with both tall grass and trees and fair visibility;
however, to the left and right the mountains rose quickly from the valley floor and were covered by tall trees and
heavy vegetation. It almost felt like the mountainous terrain was closing in on us. About 500-600 meters
northeast of LZ Horse the platoon moved to the left away from the stream and along higher ground. We passed
through an area of triple canopy jungle that had been the scene of heavy fighting the previous day by either
Charlie Company or the company they had relieved on the 20th. The predominant hill located to the northwest of
LZ Horse (according to a map of the area) was Hill 766, which meant the uppermost point of the hill was 766
meters high or over 2500 feet above the valley floor. The area we were now crossing was located northeast of LZ
Horse and almost due east of Hill 766. Battle litter was strewn throughout an area slightly smaller than a football
field and there was a smell of death everywhere. I noticed ropes hanging from several tall trees, probably where
NVA/VC snipers had been strategically placed to engage any friendly forces entering the area. After passing
through the area we moved back toward the stream and continued our move to the northeast. The tension
increased dramatically and we remained on high alert. We had still had not made visual contact with Charlie
Around 1000 hours the platoon came to an intersection in the stream. The right fork went to the south while the
other, the one we had been following, continued to the northeast. My point squad had already started to the
south. Uncertain of which way to proceed I called a halt to the march and radioed Capt. Martin, explained the
situation, and asked for instructions on how to proceed. At the same time I ordered my lead squad up an
embankment on our left to take up defensive positions and provide security for the remainder of the platoon
which was still spread along the streambed. The tip of this embankment was in reality the point of a finger ridge
flowing from the south/southeast down to the streambed. As the squad moved into position at the top of the
bank it came under fire and Sp4 Milton Parks, the point man for the platoon, was shot in the hip. The squad
immediately returned fire toward the suspected enemy position and the unknown size enemy force withdrew.
Several members of the platoon pulled Parks back to the protection of the streambed where our medic began
working on his wound to stop the bleeding and also to prevent Parks from going into shock. The remainder of the
platoon took up defensive positions. Capt. Martin, his Command Group, along with 1st Sergeant Ray “Top”
Poynter joined me in the streambed. 1st Sgt Poynter organized a litter for Parks, made from two poles and a
poncho, and filled out a casualty report. I then designated a squad, led (I believe) by Sgt Dewey Underwood, to
escort Parks back to LZ Horse since there were no suitable LZ’s in the immediate vicinity of our location allowing
for evacuation by helicopter. This entire action took approximately 45 minutes to complete.
The company led by the 2nd Platoon again began moving to the northeast and parallel to the stream. We were
about 50 yards south of the stream traversing over the ridge where the enemy had fired on us. We crossed this
ridge (or finger), which flowed from higher ground towards the streambed, moved through a draw, crossed
another ridge and draw, and then approached a third finger ridge. As the platoon moved up this ridge we found
enemy positions that had recently been occupied by an NVA/VC force of unknown size. Cooking fires were still
smoldering and rice was scattered around the fires. A heavily traveled trail 4 to 5 feet wide ran along the center
of the finger and led down towards the streambed. As I recall this ridge or finger was about 500 -800 meters
from the earlier firing incident and what I estimated to be about 2500 meters from LZ Horse.
At this juncture Capt. Martin called a halt to our route of march and told the platoons to establish a perimeter so
he could make contact with and meet Capt. Mozey near the streambed. It was around 1230 in the afternoon. On
Martin’s instructions I moved the 2nd Platoon to cover the south and eastern side of the finger, covering the
southeastern portion of the trail with one of my machine guns. I could see yet another ridge to the north with
another draw between our position and that ridge. Close to the stream this draw was fairly open; but, toward the
higher ground it was heavily vegetated, covered with boulders, and looked very steep. Lt Crum’s 1st Platoon
covered a portion of the north and the east side of the perimeter overlooking the draw and the streambed. Lt
East and his platoon covered the remainder of the perimeter by linking in with both platoons. Charlie Company
was now positioned across the streambed to our north and were higher up on a hill mass, somewhat parallel to
and overlooking our perimeter. Martin advised us to eat lunch during this halt as we might not have an
opportunity to do so later. He then met and conferred with Mozey near the streambed so they could plan their
next move and preclude any confusion by either company when we resumed the assigned mission.
During this break my machine gun crew covering the trail spotted 2 or 3 enemy soldiers about 50 yards from their
position moving down the trail towards our perimeter; however, before they could engage the enemy soldiers
turned to the east and vanished into the triple canopy jungle. I reported this to Martin and alerted the other
platoon leaders. When Martin returned from his meeting with Mozey he called the platoon leaders to the
Command Group location in the center of the perimeter where he again briefed us on our mission. We would
continue our line of march to the northeast generally paralleling the stream and attempt to make contact and
destroy any NVA/VC force in the area. We would continue as before with the 2nd Platoon in the lead, followed by
the Command Group, the 1st Platoon, and then the 3rd Platoon. Charlie Company would monitor our initial
movement from their positions across the streambed and provide fire support if needed. They would then move
parallel to our company once we reached the next finger ridge. According to Martin he had noted unoccupied
enemy bunkers on Charlie Company’s side of the stream and Mozey and his men now occupied some of these
bunkers. These positions would provide Charlie Company a good view of both the stream and the draw as Bravo
Company traversed this area.
At approximately 1400 hours (or shortly thereafter) the platoon moved off the finger ridge, swung away from
the stream, and moved slightly to the right. The Command Group followed. The movement was cautious and
painstaking slow since we had spotted enemy soldiers in the area. In addition the draw was heavily vegetated,
boulder strewn, and tall trees covered the area further impeding our movement. In retrospect I believe the 1st
Platoon, instead of following the route taken by my platoon and the Command Group, swung to the left toward
the stream and into a more open area. This made their movement easier, but also made them more vulnerable to
the attack that was forthcoming.
As the 2nd Platoon finally reached and began moving over the next finger ridge, a violent and sustained burst of
NVA/VC heavy weapons fire erupted behind us and was directed at the remainder of the company following my
platoon. The fire came from well concealed enemy positions and bunkers to my right rear and from the ridge
above the draw. At least two 50-caliber and several 30-caliber machine guns, as well as AK-47 automatic rifles
and SKS assault rifles were raining accurate and deadly fire on the 1st Platoon who had taken casualties
immediately and were now pinned down. The 3rd Platoon, which had just begun their movement into the draw,
was also receiving fire and were also pinned down. Without question the NVA had initiated an almost perfect
ambush on the 1st and 3rd Platoons. It was now almost 1500 hours.
After the initial shock I recognized no enemy fire was being directed at the 2nd Platoon and on instructions from
Capt. Martin, immediately ordered the platoon to move on line and begin maneuvering up the finger towards the
enemy positions in an effort to flank the enemy positions. Despite what I had been taught during tactics training
at The Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia I instructed the platoon to stay low and to crawl up the finger
towards the entrenched enemy force. I still did not know the size of the enemy force, but knew it was substantial
from the number of machine guns and small arms firing on the rest of the company. I suspected at least a
reinforced company or larger.
As we pushed up the finger the platoon still did not draw any fire; however, as we neared the upper portion of
the ridge one of my soldiers yelled “there’s a GI up here.” Looking to my front and left I spotted a fully armed
NVA soldier in khaki uniform and helmet standing about 30 yards away. He appeared to be looking for us, which I
assume he though, would have charged up the finger. Several of the platoon members immediately took him
under fire and he dropped where he stood. In turn the platoon was greeted with a hail of fire from the top and
the left side of the ridge. Apparently the NVA/VC force had either established another ambush position to prevent
us from attacking the enemy positions that were firing on the remainder of the company or they had unknowingly
left a gap in their positions. Surprisingly none of the platoon members were hit although we could hear bullets
whipping by and snapping branches over our heads.
Worried of a second ambush I ordered the platoon to withdraw back towards the stream where we met the
Company Command Group. They were hunkered down behind several large trees in a defiladed position about 50-
75 yards from the stream and at least a similar if not greater distance to top of the ridge. Looking back towards
the 1st Platoon’s position in the draw I could see Sgt Gerald Hoover lying dead about 15-20 yards from where we
were located. Capt. Martin, in a calm and steady voice, stated that Hoover had reported Lt. Crum was dead as
were a number of others from the 1st Platoon just prior to Hoover himself taking a round in the chest which killed
him instantly. The CO also said the 3rd Platoon, which for the most part was still occupying the ridge where we
had lunch, could not move due to heavy fire from enemy positions above him. I told Martin that we had attempted
to flank the enemy positions who were firing on the other two platoons, but were unsuccessful as the platoon had
drawn fire from what appeared to be well concealed positions to our front and left as we moved up the finger. I
also told him we had not received any fire from out right and there appeared to be a gap in the NVA/VC positions.
Capt. Martin made a quick decision on the spot and again in his steady and calm voice said, “We are going to
attack.” The platoon and the Command Group then began moving up the finger but this time maneuvered to the
right side of the ridge and towards the draw where 1st Platoon was trapped. Rain had begun falling in sheets at
the outset of our move and the light was fading quickly due to the heavy downpour and the tall trees around us
which virtually blocked out the sky. Charlie Company and our 3rd Platoon aided our movement at the request of
Capt. Martin by placing a heavy volume of fire on the NVA/VC force near the top of the ridge where the initial
enemy fire came from. This concentrated fire evidently caused the enemy to stay down and probably prevented
any reinforcement of the main enemy positions; however, they did continue to fire on the 1st and 3rd Platoons,
but at a much reduced volume. Additionally, Capt. Martin had requested and received operational control of a
platoon led by Lt Frank Vavrek from Charlie Company to fill the gap created when the critically injured 1st platoon
survivors and wounded began withdrawing towards the 3rd Platoon and Charlie Company elements. These
moves allowed us to move unheeded and unnoticed past the enemy bunkers near the top of the ridge. Capt.
Martin then called for Charlie Company and our 3rd Platoon to shift their fire to the top of the ridge above our
location and on suspected enemy routes of movement into the area. (I later learned that both East’s and Vavrek’s
platoons also successfully fought of an attack by a NVA platoon size element who was attempting to outflank
On reaching a position slightly below the top of the ridge the platoon and the Command Group turned right
paralleling a trail behind the enemy positions. Platoon Sergeant James L. Johnson tripped over some
communications wires running from the enemy positions below us to an unknown location. He cut the wire
thereby severing any communications between the enemy forces. Johnson and Sgt Arsenio Lujan, along with
several men, then took up security positions to prevent any reinforcements from approaching from the south or
east. The platoon deployed on line behind the dug-in enemy positions. The Command Group also deployed along
this same line with Martin, his RTOs, the company medic and the Artillery Recon Sergeant to the right of my
position. Sp4 William Goode, the platoon mortar forward observer, was to my left and one rifle squad led by Sgt
Leroy Christian (I believe) was deployed just beyond him. Sgt Antonio Lopez’ rifle squad was to my right just
past the Command Group. The weapons squad’s machine gun crews were interspersed with both rifle squads. By
my estimate the total strength of our assault force including the Command Group was between 30 to 35 men.
Once we were deployed Martin ordered the attack on the enemy positions below us.
As we began moving downhill the enemy apparently had become aware they had been flanked and were
beginning to reposition to meet our attack. We immediately took them under fire and started inflicting casualties.
I moved behind a large tree and told Sp4 Allen Ritter, my RTO, to stay behind me and the tree; however, he
stepped out to engage an NVA soldier trying to escape the deadly fire. An enemy machine gun opened fire on our
position wounding Ritter in or just above the knee. I spotted the machine gun as I and the platoon medic pulled
him to safety. The medic began working on him immediately to stop the bleeding and bandage the wound.
The gun was about twenty five yards from my position, was well camouflaged, and was located just to the left
side of a well traveled trail which led down towards the stream. (Note: This trail turned out to be the same trail
that ran down the finger where we had stopped for lunch). I realized this position was a direct threat to the
assault and, if not neutralized, would jeopardize our movement on the bunker complex. Without hesitation I
pulled a grenade from my harness, released the pin, waited several counts and then threw it at the machine gun
position. As it exploded I sprinted downhill toward the position and shot the three NVA soldiers occupying the
position. The gunner, although dazed and seriously wounded, was attempting to reach for the machine gun when
I shot him. I then looked down the trail and saw another NVA soldier moving up the trail toward me carrying
additional machine gun ammunition evidently with the intent to re-supply the position. I fired twice shooting him
in the center of the chest and he fell on the spot. He had an SKS assault rifle slung on his back. I retrieved the
rifle, slung it across my back, and began moving towards another bunker to the right of the trail. I tossed a
grenade through the rear entrance, took cover until I heard it explode, and then sprayed the bunker with M-16
rifle fire. I don’t know if I killed all the people in the bunker, but there was no further fire from it.
To the right and left I could see the remainder of the platoon and the Command Group advancing on the bunker
complex, destroying each of the bunkers as they progressed down the hill. I specifically recalled Sp4 Goode and
the squad to my left throwing grenades, firing their M-16s, M-79 grenade launchers, and machine guns as they
moved toward and through the bunkers. I could also see Capt. Martin, the rest of the command group, and Sgt
Lopez and his squad doing the same to my right. I saw Martin take out a least one sniper in the trees to our front
and attack several of the bunkers that had been firing on our 1st and 3rd Platoons. I also Lopez drop another
NVA soldier moving up the trail towards his and Capt. Martin’s position. Although I did not witness any other
platoon members individual actions, there is little question they had inflicted heavy casualties on the NVA force,
since they were no longer returning fire at either the assault force or the friendly forces at the bottom of the ridge
and enemy soldiers were being shot as they attempted to flee the area.
It was now close to 2000 hours and a heavy downpour continued to fall. Darkness had fallen and flares, called in
by Charlie Company’s forward observer, guided us as we neared the bottom of the finger where we were met by
Lt East’s 3rd Platoon and Vavrek’s platoon. Capt. Martin asked both platoon leaders to begin evacuating the
wounded and dead across the streambed and into the safety of Charlie Company’s defensive perimeter which had
now been established on the opposite ridge. He asked my platoon to provide security for the two platoons as they
conducted the evacuation. There still remained a concern that the NVA would reorganize and resume their attack,
although this did not happen. Capt. Martin then formed a search party and began scouring the draw for any dead
or missing warriors who had not yet been recovered.
The search and evacuation lasted several hours as the wounded and the dead were transported up the trail into
Charlie Company’s perimeter. This alone proved to be a daunting task as the trail leading to the perimeter had
become a muddy morass. Troopers would make their way five or ten feet up the trail with the wounded and dead
and then lose their footing and slide back down the trail as much as six feet or more. The movement was finally
completed after midnight when the Command Group and the 2nd Platoon closed on the perimeter. 1st Sergeant
Poynter met me as I entered the security of Charlie Company’s position and told me that Ritter, my RTO, had not
made it. He stated Ritter died shortly after the stretcher bearers carried him into the perimeter. The news was
heartfelt and deeply saddening insomuch as the medic and others had been able to keep him alive and transport
him to the safety of Charlie Company only to have him die.
The wounded and dead were located toward the center of the perimeter and the medics from both companies
were working on the wounded. A company head count was taken and it was discovered Lt. Crum and Pvt Angel
Rodriguez were still missing. Capt. Martin, after conferring with Mozey, decided a search would be conducted in
the morning since all reports from the remainder of the 1st Platoon said Crum and Rodriguez had been killed.
Capt. Martin then directed me to move the 2nd Platoon further up the ridge to the northern end of the perimeter
and take up positions in case of further attacks during the night. Just moving the platoon further up the ridge to
this area proved to be a task in itself with the muddy conditions and the fact all of us were totally exhausted.
After locating the last element of Charlie Company on the northern portion of the ridge, I instructed the squad
leaders to dig in as best they could and place their men into three men defensive positions. I also instructed each
position was to keep one man on alert and that they eat what rations they still had. I positioned the platoon
headquarters just behind the northern most point of the perimeter and notified Capt. Martin when we were finally
in position. It was now May 22nd and artillery units continued to fire illumination rounds throughout the night.
It continued to rain heavily and although there was occasional rifle fire there were no probes attempted on the
perimeter the rest of the night.
As the morning of the 22nd broke, helicopters flew over the perimeter and dropped much needed supplies,
including chainsaws that allowed troops to open a clearing so the wounded and dead could be evacuated by
baskets winched down from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The wounded were lifted out first, then the dead.
Captured equipment and documents were evacuated last. My platoon, along with the remainder of Bravo
Company, took this opportunity to rest, clean weapons, and resuppy with ammunition and rations.
Charlie Company, led by Pvt David Dolby and Pvt Kenneth Fernandez from the 1st Platoon, returned to the site of
initial contact and were able to find and recover the bodies of Lt. Crum and Pvt Rodriguez. They evacuated the
bodies to the safety of the perimeter. The total killed in the battle now numbered eleven; eight from the 1st
Platoon, Sp4 Alan Ritter from my platoon, and two from Vavrek’s platoon. There were also at least 15 wounded.
Charlie Company returned to the top of the ridge where the NVA had initiated the battle. According to Mozey, he
and his company found over 50 NVA bodies including the body of a senior NVA commander and a Chinese advisor,
in one of the bunkers. They also found numerous blood trails leading away from the area indicating the NVA had
suffered more casualties as they pulled out. They made no contact during their search of the area and then
returned to the ridge where Bravo Company still manned the perimeter with additional weapons and materials
they had found. Evacuation of all materials was completed later that day and both companies, as I recall,
remained on the ridge that night before moving their separate ways on May 23rd.
Bravo Company was ordered back to LZ Horse by a circuitous overland route through the mountainous terrain
and jungle with the 2nd Platoon again moving as the point for the company. During the move we discovered
another major NVA/VC base camp and several graves near another stream to the west of the battle site. The
encampment was capable of holding at least a battalion size element, complete with latrines, cooking areas dug
into the banks above the stream to diffuse the smoke, and sleeping areas; however, we made no further contact
with any enemy soldiers in the area and returned to the LZ without further incident.
We were then air lifted from LZ Horse to LZ Colt where we assumed defensive positions with other units of the
battalion on a forward artillery base along with a unit from the Republic of Korea. The perimeter was probed
several times by small enemy units and we were continually fired on by snipers at the new location. A new
lieutenant, Robert Heath, was assigned to the company to replace Lt. Crum. We patrolled aggressively around the
LZ in platoon size elements. It was during one of these patrols that Capt. Martin, while guiding my platoon to one
of the sniper locations from a helicopter, was seriously wounded in the leg by the sniper. He was immediately
evacuated for medical attention and never returned to the company. His loss was felt immediately not only by my
platoon, but by the entire company and battalion. We never located the sniper nor did we make any contact with
enemy forces during the remainder of our stay at LZ Colt. The company, under a new commander Captain Gerrell
V. Plummer, made several additional air assault and conducted platoon and company patrols for several days in
the mountainous terrain in the area of operations between the Vinh Thanh and the Soui Ca Valleys. As Operation
Crazy Horse wound down the company patrolled to the west and finally back to the Vinh Thanh Valley. We were
then moved by motor convoy back to the base camp at An Khe in early June, bringing to an end our involvement
in Operation Crazy Horse.
Dedicated to the members of the Command Group led by CPT Roy D. Martin, the men of the 2nd Platoon, "B"
Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division and especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on
21 May 1966.
Bravo Company Charlie Company
2nd Lt Robert H. Crum, Jr Sp4 David M. Jolley
Sgt Gerald D. Hoover Sp4 Michael G. Vinassa
Pfc David J. Canales
Pfc Michael G. Cryar
Sp4 Richard F. Lease
Pfc Gerald E. Metcalf
Sp4 Allen J. Ritter
Pfc Michael E. DeVoe
Pfc Angel E. Rodriguez
Reproduction of this article prohibited unless specifically authorized by the author.